Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: Lightning Literature & Composition Grade 7

The opportunity to review Lightning Literature and Composition from Hewitt Homeschooling could not have come at a better time.  I was in the midst of figuring out what I would do for literature for Jacob's 7th grade year.  Needless to say, I was quite excited when I received the following items:


 
In this course, your student will read the following books (not excerpts): 
  • Stories & Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages (selections)
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
  • The Story of My Life
  • All Creatures Great and Small
The Student's Guide contains the lessons written to the student.  There is an introduction, and this tells the student some history about what they'll be reading, and what they should be on the lookout for while they read.  After they read the introduction in the Student's Guide, the student then reads the book (or short story or poetry selection(s) ).  There is a list of vocabulary words the student might need for each chapter in the book they're reading, as well as 1-2 comprehension questions for every chapter. Once the student finishes the book, they read the rest of the lesson in the Student's Guide.  There is a different literary lesson for each of the eight chapters: 
  • "Plot Line"
  • "Plot Line in a Novel"
  • "Introduction to Poetry & Rhyme"
  • "Creativity"
  • "Dialogue"
  • "Autobiography"
  • "Sound in Poetry"
  • "The Character Sketch"
Also included in each chapter in the student book is a mini lesson, and these mini-lessons focus on composition: 
  • "Another Opening"
  • "Outlines"
  • "Limerick and Haiku"
  • "Nonce Words"
  • "Saying it with Style"
  • "Brainstorming"
  • "Cinquain and List Poem"
  • "Choosing a Topic"
Each chapter wraps up with several different writing assignments.  They vary in difficulty, and the student is instructed to choose 1 or 2.  Of course, you have the freedom to assign more than 1 or 2 if you'd like.
 
The Student's Workbook has worksheets for each chapter, and they are to be completed after the student reads the literature and the lesson in the Student's Guide.  The student uses what they learn through reading to complete the worksheets.  These worksheets are not easy, but cause the student to really apply what they're learning, often times by using excerpts from other good literature.  They practice different skills like writing couplets (and other poetry forms), they are asked to correctly punctuate and capitalize a short story that uses a lot of dialogue, they have to identify fact and opinions in writing, they analyze writing to find the topic sentences and supporting sentences, and more.  There is one crossword puzzle and one word search for each chapter. 

The Teacher's Guide contains a planning guide, and this guide breaks the program down into 36 weeks.  The plans aren't broken down into daily assignments, but this allows for a lot of flexibility for your student.  There are answers for all of the comprehension questions in the student book, as well as teaching helps for each of the lessons and writing assignments.  Also included are discussion questions and answers for the student workbook. 
 
We are loving Lightning Literature & Composition.  We are following the planning guide that is included, and moving at a pace that is comfortable for Jacob.  He's a strong reader, and we finished the first chapter, and he's well into reading Tom Sawyer.  I love that the program is based on reading real, good, unabridged books.

This program is not easy for Jacob, but he feels that he is learning and he likes it.  He likes that the Student Guide is written directly to him, and he feels that it is doing a good job teaching him.  He also likes that the worksheets make him think, and he was happy that he was able to pick a writing assignment that interested him.

I like that the Teacher's Guide takes the time to explain what I need to look for in an answer, and also points out that Jacob might find certain aspects of assignments difficult, and that it's okay if he does.  I feel like instead of being just an answer key, it's helps to develop me as a teacher.

Looking forward to future lessons, I'm excited about finishing this program with Jacob this year.  I'd recommend that you check out the other offerings from Hewitt Homeschooling.  Lightning Literature and Composition Grade  is perfect for grades 7-8.  Other levels of their Lightning Literature & Composition were reviewed by other bloggers on the Crew; click on the banner below to read their opinions!
 



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Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: Beyond the Book Report

We recently had the opportunity to review a new product from Analytical Grammar called Beyond the Book Report.  As suggested by the title, this program is designed to help teach or improve your middle grade student's writing.  


There are three seasons in this program, and they can be used alone or in conjunction with the Analytical Grammar program.  Each season costs $24.95, or you can purchase a bundle that includes all three for $69.95.  Seasons 1 & 2 are recommended for grades 6-8, while Season 3 is for slightly older children (grades 8-10).  You can view different recommended schedules, depending on what grade you start the program in.

Season 1 teaches:

  1. Basic Book Report:  In this unit, your child will focus on paraphrasing and summarizing.  They'll also learn about conflict, point of view, climax, and protagonist/antagonist
  2. Pamphlet Book Report:  Your child will produce a book report in pamphlet form in this unit. They'll be introduced to plot elements, mood and tone, setting, and genre.
  3. News Article Book Report:  Your child will write a news article about their favorite scene in a book they chose, and then they'll have to rewrite the article from the opposite bias.  Since they're learning to write a news article, they'll learn about various concepts related to news articles (bylines, headlines, etc.), as well as bias and objectivity.
Season 2 teaches: 
  1. Poetry Book Report:  Your student will write a limerick, haiku, sonnet, and narrative poem based on the book they read.  They'll also study metaphors, alliteration, personification, and other figures of speech. 
  2. Drama Book Report:  In this unit, your student will dramatize their favorite scene.  They'll be introduced to different genres (such as comedy and melodrama) and different terms (monologue, dialogue, and more).
Season 3 teaches:
  1. Essay:  This unit breaks writing an essay (personal, literary, and SAT) down into easy steps.
  2. Oral Report:  Your student will learn how to dive an oral report with a power point presentation.
  3. Research Paper:  This unit teaches your student how to write a research paper through easy steps.
Each Season comes shrink wrapped with a teacher packet and DVD.  The teacher packets contain a hardcopy of the different scheduling options, a teaching guide, answer keys, examples, and reference pages.  The DVDs contain lectures, as well as printable student materials and rubrics in PDF format.  

Beyond the Book Report can be used with any book you or your child chooses.  They do encourage reading good books, preferably classics, but any book will do.  By not being tied to a booklist the authors thought up, you are able to tailor this program to what your child is interested in or to what you're already reading for school.

The teaching is broken down into different teaching days.  These teaching days don't happen one right after the other, but instead are spread out over the unit.  The amount of time a unit takes will depend on your student and the books they choose to write about.

For example, in the Basic Book Report unit in Season 1, there are four teaching days.  On the first day, you will watch the introductory video on the DVD, talk about potential books for the student to read for the unit, and watch a video on summary vs. paraphrase.  On the second day, you'll watch a video on literary terms, and a video that contains the instructions for the Basic Book Report.  On the third day, your student will submit their book choice to you, and it is assigned.  Then there will be a gap while the student completes the book and assignments before the fourth teaching day.  On this day, the student will turn in their report and you will evaluate the report (with your student) according to the enclosed rubric.  While the number of teaching days vary according to the season and unit, they are all flexible and the amount of time it takes to complete a unit will not be the same for every student.

Note taking is also introduced through this program.  There are PDFs for you to print out that have small versions of the teaching slides on the DVD lessons, with lines next to the slides.  Your student is encouraged to take notes during the lecture.

Jacob and I spent time on Season 1, spending about 30 minutes 3 days a week.  We would watch the DVD lecture if there was one, and then we would discuss what we had watched and any assignment that he was supposed to do.  We went over how to use the reading log, which he then kept up with, and we worked on paraphrasing and summarizing.  We spent a lot of time on paraphrasing as it is taught in this program.

There were pros and cons to this program. I liked that it can be used with any number of students by printing out any PDFs needed for your children.  I liked that there were teaching DVDs, but both Jacob and I were distracted by the quality (they appear to have been filmed at a dining room table, and if this isn't the case they do not have a "professional" feel to them).  I loved that there were rubrics for each assignment, but some of the requirements for the rubric seemed better suited for a classroom setting (and you're told not to deviate from the rubric).  For example, the student gets 5 points for having the teacher physically sign off on their book choice.  Another portion had the student write either study questions or a crossword puzzle for their book, and this was worth 20 points. However, I did like the easy instructions for grading the actual writing assignments that were included with the rubric.

Overall, though, this wasn't a great fit for our family.  However, just because it wasn't a great fit for ours, doesn't mean it won't be a great fit for yours.  Click on the Schoolhouse Review Crew banner below to read more reviews about Beyond the Book Report.


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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Perspective

"Why are we celebrating that Luke is one year closer to death?"  -Micah, when he wasn't pleased with the birthday activity Luke chose

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Review: HomeSchoolPiano

HomeSchoolPiano, which provides online piano lessons with teacher Willie Myette, recently gave us the opportunity to review their HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books.  We were given a lifetime subscription for up five students, which obviously worked out perfectly for our family.
 

 
 
Have you ever wished that your children could learn to play the piano?  Have you struggled finding a piano teacher, or struggled with finding the time to run your children to lessons, or faced another barrier to providing piano lessons for your children?

HomeSchoolPiano might just be the answer for you.  This program is for all ages, and lessons are accessible any time that suits you.  All you need is:
  1. A piano or keyboard (with at least 49 full size keys)
  2. A tablet (any tablet, or even a smartphone) or computer with an internet connection
 
 
 
 
HomeSchoolPiano follows a six step method to teach piano to your child.

  1. Technique
  2. Rhythm
  3. Ear Training
  4. Reading
  5. Song
  6. Improvisation
By following this process, the student learns not only how to read and play music, but to compose original music.

 
 
There are 3 different levels (books) and beginner Core lessons, with PDF books to print for each level.  I printed out all of levels, and spiral bound them.  You could easily use a binder as well.  These workbooks contain music for the student to play, along with scales to practice, pages to practice rhythms, and empty music staffs to write down the music created during improvisation.  All of the workbook pages are labeled with the unit and lesson that they correspond to.

I had each of the boys figure out which level they should start at, because they've all had piano lessons (anywhere from 1 to 10 years, depending on the boy).  I don't play the piano, so I figured they could figure this out more easily than I could.  Then they just worked through the lessons a few times a week.  The boys used the iPad to watch the lessons and take the quizzes.

I can log in as the boys' teacher, and I have access to printable records for each boy.  I can use the this to check my students' progress and quiz scores, as well as keep tabs on the percent complete of each lesson.  I can also check to see when they last logged in.

I love this online program.  I love that the boys are learning technique, correct form, sight reading, as well as improvisation.  We view learning to play music as an important part of the boys' education, and even though they aren't beginners, HomeSchoolPiano is very beneficial for them.  The boys don't always love piano, but they like this program.  The most difficult thing about this is making sure they practice, but that's always been the case.  Willie is a good teacher, and it's nice that we're able to do lessons on our schedule.  Having the ability to check their progress from anywhere is very beneficial.  I just found out our piano teacher is taking the semester off from teaching, so instead of looking for a new teacher, we will continue with HomeSchoolPiano lessons.  It sure is convenient!


 
 There are two different options for purchasing the HomeSchoolPiano program, both of which provide unlimited, life-time access for up to five students.
  • One payment of $299
  • Payment plan:  3 monthly payments of $99.97/month

 
 
 

Still aren't sure if HomeSchoolPiano will work for you?  You can sign up for a free lesson on the website.
 
 
 
 
 
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It's That Time Again

 
 
I'm not sure I have everything we need, but I started writing lesson plans this weekend.  I'm a visual person, I think, and work best when I can stack books in different piles according to subject.

 
I worked all day yesterday and really thought I'd be farther along than I am, but will keep plugging away today.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Planning & Printing

I'm making a bit of progress on plans for this coming year.  This is good news, because we need to start!  Activities start up in a month, and I'd like to get into a routine with the subjects we're doing at home before the craziness of the year starts.

So I'm spending a crazy Saturday night planning courses and printing assignments.

Monday, July 07, 2014

It Was a Happy 4th!

We had a lovely 4th of July.  We spent the day working together as a family, putting up the boys' new trampoline.  Our old one was 12ft and over the last couple of weeks the boys walked in with springs and the canvas strip that held them to the mat, so it was definitely time to replace it.  The one we got is 15ft, so there was more leveling of the ground that had to be done.

Once my part was finished, I was able to work a bit more on cleaning the school room up.  I finished last night (finally).   Over the last couple of weeks, I went through all the books, organized the shelves, cleaned up the closet, and cleaned out their binders.  Now I'm ready to start planning for the new year.

We grilled burgers for dinner, and then stopped and got ice cream and went to the parking lot of a nearby school where we were able to watch a handful of fireworks displays.  A very nice day.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Review: Veritas Press Self-Paced History

Veritas Press has been one of those homeschool friendly companies that I've liked from the very beginning of our journey.  They produce beautiful materials that make me want to pick them up and look them over and use them.  I was thrilled when the opportunity arose for us to review one of their Self-Paced History courses.

I looked over the options, and chose the Self-Paced History:  Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation course, since this fits the time period my younger boys will be studying in the fall.  This course is priced at $199, and includes access for 12 months.  In addition to the online course, we were also sent the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation Flashcards ($19.95) for review.



 
 
Have you ever wished you could have a passionate, engaging, knowledgeable history teacher come into your house every day and teach your child?  This is exactly what the Self-Paced History courses from Veritas Press provide.  The courses use interactive lessons, games, puzzles, and quizzes to teach your child history.
 
The Self-Paced History courses are designed for use by children in grades 2-6.  There are 5 different courses available:
  • Old Testament and Ancient Egypt
  • New Testament, Greece, and Rome
  • Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation
  • Explorers to 1815
  • 1815 to Present
These courses follow the history paradigm that history is best studied by beginning at the beginning and then progressing chronologically through until today.  Each course has 160 lessons that cover 32 major events, and you can view sample lessons for each course here.
 
The 32 events covered for each course are the same events that are highlighted on the flashcards.  This is handy because you can pull out your hardcopy of the flashcards to review the material your child is learning.  These flashcards are full color, with relevant artwork depicting each event on the front.  On the back, there are a few paragraphs that detail the event, and there are also resources listed with page numbers if you'd like to read more about what is on each card.

Some of the events covered in the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation course are:
  • Barbarian Invasion and Vikings
  • Otto I and the Holy Roman Empire
  • Cathedrals in Europe
  • St. Thomas Aquinas
  • The Council of Trent
For example, in one of the earliest lessons in our course, the student is learning about St. Augustine.  As part of this, they also learn about the Trinity (the teaching is done by a person who is dressed as if they live in the time period) and then have to unscramble a puzzle that gives the meaning of "trinity".  The whole course is filled with examples like this, and as a result your child learns while having fun.
 
A great benefit for you, the parent, other than having the aforementioned engaging teacher, is that the child's work is automatically graded.  This allows you to keep track of how they're doing, even if you can't stay by them for each and every lesson.

 
Front of MARR flashcard
Back of MARR flashcard
I used this course with Micah, my 10 year old 5th grader.  I loved that I could have him do his history lesson without me, and I loved that I knew he was learning and could easily see how he was doing, even if I couldn't be around for his lessons.  Since I've been working part time, I've been looking for ways to have the boys be more independent.  This program fit that criteria nicely. 

Micah enjoyed the program for the most part.  It helped, I'm sure, that he loves all things Middle Ages, so he's super excited about studying these things for school.  There were a couple of the games/puzzles that I had to help him with, so that did discourage him a bit that he couldn't get it himself.  The ones he needed help with were mostly things that were timed, and he simply couldn't complete the task in the allotted time (unscrambling words and moving the tiles into the proper spot was one I remember helping him with).

Overall, though, I consider this program to be well worth the money.  Whether you're looking for a way to spice up your history studies, or whether you're simply looking for a way to have history be less teacher intensive, this is a program you should consider.

If you have an older student, Veritas Press also has Self-Paced Omnibus programs.  You can read reviews about all the different history courses and Omnibus I if you click on the banner below.
 
 
 
 



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Monday, June 30, 2014

Bacon is Beautiful

Nicholas (8), while sitting at the counter watching me cook dinner:  "I think I'll skip eating eggs and just sit here and admire this pan of bacon."

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Procrastination

Normally by this time in summer, I have our plans finalized, all books purchased,  and I've started entering lesson plans into Homeschool Tracker. 

This year, though, I'm feeling overwhelmed.  I've got a lot of what we need (I think(, but my thoughts and ideas are inside my head bumping into each other like super-heated molecules.  Our year will look quite different than it has in the past because of a couple of outside classes and the fact I'm now working part time.  I'm thinking of not using Homeschool Tracker, wondering if having paper plans where we can see all the assignments will help us stay on track.  But I'm not quite sure how to work it out yet.  The binder system for holding upcoming assignments that we've used for several years didn't work out for us this past year, so I'm rethinking how to handle storing our daily work.  Individual folders?  Using my Pro-Click to make spiral notebooks for each subject? 

Our new year starts in July, which is next week.  I've got to force myself to sit down and work on sorting this stuff out.

But right now, the World Cup is on.